What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone illegally obtains your personal information (i.e. Social Security Number, bank account number, address, etc.) and uses it to open new credit cards or bank accounts, make unauthorized purchases, conduct unauthorized activity, change account contact information or to conduct other criminal activity.
Such activity can cause financial loss and damage to your credit, which can lead to a lengthy resolution process.
How does it happen?
Criminals continue to find new ways to steal and obtain your personal information with online and offline methods, such as:
- Steal wallets, purses, and mobile phones
- Access and intercept mail via U.S. Postal Service
- Access and intercept emails
- Rummage through garbage
- Make phone calls to scam you out of your personal information by impersonating financial institutions, the IRS, law enforcement, prize administrators, etc. For more information visit Scams
- Phishing/SmiShing/Vishing, sending you a fake email, text (SMS) or phone call, asking you to provide or enter your personal information. For more information visit Phishing/SmiShing/Vishing
Recognizing identity theft and fraud
Identity thieves can strike even if you've been very careful with your personal information. The following may be signs of identity theft and fraudulent activity in your name or on your accounts:
- New accounts appear on your credit report that you didn’t open
- You did not receive an expected bill or statement
- You receive credit cards or billing statements you didn't apply for
- You are denied credit or are offered less than favorable credit terms
- You receive calls from creditors or debt collectors regarding merchandise or services that you did not buy
- You receive security alerts from your financial institution or from a creditor alerting you to unusual log in, change of contact information, or seeking verification of a transaction
- Unknown or unauthorized charges occur on your account
Types of identity theft
For your eligible accounts, consider switching to online billing statements (see ID Theft Prevention to learn about securing your online activity and Online Banking Security Measures for information on how we work to protect your online activity).
Only use secured mailboxes to deposit your outgoing mail, like those at the post office. If your home mailbox isn't secure, consider changing it to a locked box with a mail slot. Collect your mail right away, and if you don't receive some expected mail, such as billings, make a call to the company and ask when they mailed it and make sure no unauthorized change of address has been made. If you believe your information was stolen, report it immediately.
Before you use your debit card, take a look around. Is someone crowding you or hovering around you for no apparent reason, such as at an ATM? Learn more about ATM safety.
If you feel uncomfortable using your debit card in this situation, don't. Also, be sure to place your wallet in a safe space, such as an inner zipped pocket, especially when taking out your card in public.
Make it a point to know how any organization requesting your personal information protects it.
Safekeeping of customer information is a high priority at Bank of the West. We will continue to maintain the high standards necessary to help ensure that your information is kept private and secure.
View Internet scams for more information on avoiding email phishing attempts. Understand that a criminal may use the name of someone you trust to get your information, so you cannot rely on name alone to make a judgment. Know the policies of the various institutions you do business with so that if you are faced with this type of scheme, you are prepared to protect yourself.
Take a look at what kind of information about you is available on the internet. View your internet networking sites and profiles to ensure you're not inadvertently giving out information that can be used to steal your identity.
Make sure that your computer has a firewall installed. Firewalls are designed to block unsolicited attempts to access your system. If you do have a firewall, make sure that it is turned on. If you don't a have a firewall installed, you can purchase one.
Make sure that you have antivirus software installed and update it regularly. Run antivirus software regularly to identify and remove viruses from your computer.
Do not open any attachments or go to any links from a source that you don't know. Delete any unsolicited emails with attachments and links immediately. You can report any suspicious Bank of the West communications to us at email@example.com.
Skimmers are devices used to read the magnetic strip from your credit or debit card. They can be used on any ATM or card reading device, like those found at gas stations or restaurants. The devices are often well-hidden.
It's important that you regularly check your account balances and reconcile them with any purchases you've made. Be wary of any ATM device that appears to have been altered or appears suspicious. Always cancel a transaction if you feel uncomfortable.
Theft by phone
Organizations and financial institutions typically don't have a reason to unexpectedly call to ask for you to verify your personal information.
If you feel that it may be a legitimate call from a company you know, tell them that you'll call back through the number listed for their company. Use a phone or internet listing for the company to call back. Ask for the caller's name so that you can get back to them. If it is a legitimate call, the caller should have no problem accommodating you. If it's an organization you don't know, make sure this organization is valid before giving them any information about yourself. When in doubt, don't provide any information.
Report any unauthorized activity
To report fraud or unauthorized online access to your accounts, please call Customer Service at 1-800-488-2265, select option 3. TTY 1-800-659-5495. We’re available to help you:
Mon–Fri 6 am to 12am CT / 8 am to 10 pm PT
Sat–Sun 7 am to 12am CT / 9 am to 10 pm PT
And most holidays